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Align announces preliminary settlement with dentists

Align Technology Inc. announced preliminary details of a proposed settlement between itself and dentists as part of a class action lawsuit against the company.

The lawsuit was filed May 10 in federal court in northern California by dentists who allege the company instituted a case quota, failed to reimburse dentists for thousands of dollars in training fees and reportedly decertified doctors who didn't comply with the company’s rules. More than 22,000 dentists are included in the class, said Jason Hartley, attorney with Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, the Kansas City law firm representing the class.

The settlement could mean class members can obtain reinstatement to prescribe Invisalign under certain circumstances, and certain class members could have the option to elect a cash remedy instead, according to a news release posted on Align’s website Oct. 21. The proposed settlement remains subject to the execution of a formal settlement agreement and approval by a judge.

"We are extremely pleased with the settlement with Align," Mr. Hartley told the ADA News. "It provides complete relief for the class. We expect full support from all the dentists and orthodontists who are in the class."

If the court grants preliminary approval of the settlement, the terms will be sent to all class members. Align reported a $3.3 million change in its third quarter financials because of attorney fees and administrative costs related to the lawsuit, according to the news release. Mr. Hartley said he will comment more specifically on the terms once the settlement is finalized, which he expects to happen this month. 

The lawsuit claims Align Technology Inc., which manufactures and sells Invisalign, violated California public policy by requiring doctors to prescribe at least 10 cases each year in order to make money. The lawsuit alleges Align was not concerned about patient welfare but about its own bottom line. It describes Align’s practices as unfair and fraudulent.

The class action complaint asked Align to refund dentists the fee they paid to be certified to prescribe Invisalign and said as a result of the practices, the class suffered injury in fact and lost money or property.   

Align required doctors to pay about $2,000 for a training course to be certified to prescribe Invisalign. In June 2009, the company announced doctors would have to start at least 10 cases each year in order to retain their certification.

This was met with protest from numerous groups. The American Dental Association communicated with the company a number of times and in April, Align announced it was dropping the requirement.

Doctors who have had their Invisalign accounts deactivated or suspended as a result of the proficiency requirements program are included in the settlement class and will be notified of their options after a final settlement agreement is preliminarily approved by the court. Doctors who have questions regarding the status of the lawsuit can contact Mr. Hartley at 1-619-400-5822 or his partner, Patrick Stueve, at 1-816-714-7110. Align’s website states dentists can also e-mail the company with questions at settlement@aligntech.com.